A topic of much debate among racing fans, the origin of drifting continues to generate plenty of spirited debate in online drifting communities to this day. While the identity of the first driver in history who purposefully over-steered his car to create a sideways drift will forever be lost in the mists of time, the origin of the drifting in modern motor-sports is well documented.
The honour lies with Japanese racer Kunimitsu Takahashi, who pioneered drifting techniques in races in the mid to late ’70s.
The Rise and Dominance of Drifting
Originally a motorcycle racer, Takahashi found fame in 1961 as the first ever Japanese rider to win the Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix on a 250cc Honda.
A serious injury in 1962 cut short his motorcycle racing career and made Takahashi switch to racing in cars. While racing the Japanese circuits Takahashi began using various drifting manoeuvres out of necessity to take on tight corners while maintaining speed.
Not only did it help Takahashi win races, drifting on the speedway also won him many followers among the fans. Fans were excited by this brand new style of racing and Takahashi’s crowd-pleasing antics on the track filled the stands.
Takahashi’s drifting style caught the eye of Keiichi Tsuchiya, a brash young street racer and rising star of Japan’s Formula 3 scene. Not content to merely copy Takahashi’s techniques on the race track, Tsuchiya wanted to take drifting to the next level by making it a motor-sport in its own right.
Tsuchiya began to hone his craft on the windy roads of Japanese mountain passes. The constant barrage of twists, turns and bends on such roads provided the perfect opportunity for continuous drifting.
Tsuchiya attempts to take an obscure racing technique and change it into an art-form on those winding Japanese mountain roads have become the stuff of legends.